Do You Goggle?

Not Google, we all do that, but Goggle.

Long time no post.

This evening I was browsing through my Instagram feed when I came upon this post by @bjornolsson.


Knowing that I couldn’t copy and paste the text (it’s like that on Facebook too) I wondered what to do instead of using Google Translate.

Google Goggles. Fire it up. Snap a photo…


… and click the Abc at the bottom of the page.


Ta da! The world gets smaller.


PaCT with the Devil

This post was originally written as a comment on this post by Tara, but my iPad wouldn’t play nicely with Blogger. Read Tara’s post first or the following won’t make sense… (probably won’t anyway).

Unfortunately this is another educational solution built on the shifting sands that are National Standards. There are many that have accepted these insidious “measures” of student progress as a fait accompli, but they have no place in a modern education system or rich curriculum designed to work with diverse and disparate learner needs. I know I risk overusing a previously espoused analogy, but we are the camp guards here. We’re the ones helping to deliver this solution and we’re the only ones who can stand up and say enough is enough. Without us it is doomed to collapse. If we continue to stand silently by and claim no responsibility for the destructive effects these policies will have on a generation of learners then we have only ourselves to blame. Every tool that is developed to assist in the production of little cube shaped learners is just a shift up in efficiency, another widget mould that demeans our students and belittles our profession. We have to turn away from these tools, destabilize the tick boxes and league tables of below/meeting/above and revive the broader aims of The New Zealand Curriculum.

So… where do we start?


One of my Yr 5 students spent time today out of the class planting native trees for Arbor Day. He returned around lunch time, but I didn’t really really get a chance to talk to him about it this afternoon.
So I saw that he’d just tweeted a “Hey”.


Four little words… “I’ll make a doc”. It’s been a long week and I know I’m tired, but that’s not why I welled up with tears.

Powerful stuff this motivated, independent learning thing.

[update] He shared the doc with me via Twitter DM because he wasn’t sure how to spell someone’s name. I wasn’t sure either so I texted a colleague. He waited… until I forwarded the texted answer. Sorted.

This kid is 9. Tweets and follows me with parental permission. Love it. ūüôā

GMail iOS 5

Today Google updated their iOS 5 GMail app. After a disastrous app launch last month, Google have added a feature that extends GMail in a new and exciting way. They’ve added a feature called Scribbles that allows you to create and share doodles, drawings, hand drawn maps etc. directly from the GMail app. A small range of brushes, sizes and colours are available and the scribble automagically attaches as a png to your email.

Keep ’em coming Google ūüôā


People, People, People

Saturday was my third #EduCampAKL and well worth the caffeine fuelled  drive up from Hamilton to Epsom Girls Grammar School. There were lots of new faces, plenty of familiar ones and a few online friends that it was great to meet face to face for the first time.

Full House at Epsom Girls Grammar School

It was a full house, populated by eager teachers/learners who saw the value in giving up their free time to connect with like minded colleagues from across the education sectors.  It was a day to further our understandings of third millenium pedagogy and the new tools that might be used to engage students and promote effective learning.

PD is often seen as something that is done to teachers (not always the case IMHO) but EduCamps/Barcamps are different. There are no reluctant participants; everyone who is there wants to be there. Twitter once again proved itself the WD40 of social oils and made it ridiculously easy to slip into conversations with strangers previously met online.

Ultimately though, the day was about people*. People sharing and discussing their thoughts, their successes, their pitfalls and reflections. A group of likeminded educators all willing to join with others to connect and collaborate. I wondered again what it would be like to work in a learning environment surrounded by these people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

Next… EduCampBOP¬†…see you there!


*and I got a choccy fish ūüôā


Speaking of QR Codes…

It seems my time is spent on Twitter these days, but here’s a new post for my edublogs blog. I saw a link from Mashable on Twitter today and it gave me an idea for a class project. ¬†Here’s a quick video I made to explain.

Of course it needn’t be the student’s own face that the talking mouth is added to. ¬†It could be a character from a book, an historical¬†character or anyone/anything else that suits. ¬†I didn’t use a QR code on my image, but if you use a QR Code generator and upload videos to¬†YouTube you can use the same QR enabled device for many different objects.

The original Mashable post is here.

And this is me… (click the image to embiggen)



Education Reset


Just a note before you start reading. ¬†I originally wrote this full of expletives. ¬†To get the real feel of what I mean you can substitute the “f***ed-bomb” wherever I’ve used “messed”.

We need a reset button.  A reset button for education.  We need to try turning it off and on again.  Somewhere along the way we messed up.  I mean the collective we of course, the multi-generational we that has systematically messed up education and reduced it to a numbers game; a  keno with a few winners and many more losers.

A reboot wouldn’t be enough though would it? ¬†We’d still have the same guts in the machine. ¬†The same ghosts of mass education’s factory fodder origins. ¬†The same targeted curriculum areas, same bias, same old same old. ¬†Same shit, different day. And still messed up.

I’ve lost count of the number of curriculum review meetings I’ve been to. ¬†You know the ones. ¬†Where we sit around with pens and paper, cutting and pasting learning outcomes, achievement objectives, rubrics and processes until they look different, but say the same. ¬†Maybe we’ll plug in an ICT component, you know, so it’s integrated. ¬†A semantic shuffle and same old messed up same old.

So a reset for education isn’t enough. ¬†We need something bigger, more drastic. ¬†It’s messed up and we keep trying to ¬†fix it by narrowing focus, shaving corners, bolting on new subjects and reordering others.

Sir Ken Robinson and others talk about a learning revolution, but what does that mean?

Given a clean slate how would you set about creating a new education system?  Would it be location based?  What role would institutions play, if any?  What would you include, how would it be weighted, what would its purpose be?  There are plenty of posts and ideas about personalized learning, creativity based learning, pull vs push and lifelong learning, but what would any of these look like?

Or am I wrong? ¬†Is education not as “messed” up as I think?

Primary PLE Please

Hi Steve, your reimagining of the PLE fits pretty closely with my interpretation. ¬†I guess you know how I feel about institutional and corporate fingers in the VLE, but I think to some extent it’s unavoidable. ¬†Learners need a framework to hang their learning cloak on and, in many cases educational institutions are best placed to provide that framework.
That is, of course, if you accept that students don’t encounter the PLE/VLE concept or start building it until they reach higher education. ¬†What if we were to start all this in the early years of school? ¬†Scaffold 5 – 11 year old students in their development of a PLE like we do with core literacy and numeracy skills? Integrate it and weave it into their learning experience right from day one. ¬†What would it look like? ¬†Would it be modular, introducing new tools and concepts in tick boxed turns (like the linear learning that many schools seem to still seem to favour)? Or would it be up to the teacher and learner to identify and negotiate the best tool for the job?
At these early ages there is much modeling by teachers, eg., reading to, reading with and reading by students.
It would fall on the the teacher to share and use their own PLE in the classroom to model its use? Then a co-construction of a “basic” PLE by teacher and student. ¬†Finally the student begins to walk alone…into a world of connected learning, branching out on their own as their learning needs dictate.
There are many barriers.  It depends on teachers having their own PLE, and we know that such teachers are a tiny minority. Not to mention COPPA and the restrictions that web tools put on their use by minors.
I read your posts and see that usually they are aimed at or discussing issues that affect adult learners, but I always try and turn them around and consider how they apply to my teaching/learning, my students/colleagues. ¬†You’ve made me think about where PLEs fit for primary/elementary education and I’m seriously coming around to the idea that to organically grow an effective PLE we need to plant the seed in students as soon as they enter formal education.
Am I being unrealistic? I’ve always ¬†had a Utopian streak running through me.


I originally wrote this as a comment in response to this blogpost by Steve Wheeler/@timbuckteeth, but it was rejected for being too long.   So here it is, exactly as the comment was written.

Hi Steve, your¬†re-imagining¬†of the PLE fits pretty closely with my interpretation. ¬†I guess you know how I feel about institutional and corporate fingers in the VLE, but I think to some extent it’s unavoidable. ¬†Learners need a framework to hang their learning cloak on and, in many cases educational institutions are best placed to provide that framework.

That is, of course, if you accept that students don’t encounter the PLE/VLE concept or start building it until they reach higher education. ¬†What if we were to start all this in the early years of school? ¬†Scaffold 5 – 11 year old students in their development of a PLE like we do with core literacy and numeracy skills? ¬†Integrate and weave it into their learning experience right from day one. ¬†What would it look like? ¬†Would it be modular, introducing new tools and concepts in tick boxed turns (like the linear learning that many schools seem to still seem to favour)? Or would it be up to the teacher and learner to identify and negotiate the best tool for the job?

At these early ages there is much modeling by teachers, eg., reading to, reading with and reading by students.

So maybe…

It would fall on the the teacher to share and use their own PLE in the classroom to model its use? ¬† Then a co-construction of a “basic” PLE by teacher and student. ¬†Finally the student begins to walk alone…into a world of connected learning, branching out on their own as their learning needs dictate.

There are many barriers.  It depends on teachers having their own PLE, and we know that such teachers are a tiny minority. Not to mention COPPA and the restrictions that web tools put on their use by minors.

I read your posts and see that usually they are aimed at or discussing issues that affect adult learners, but I always try and turn them around and consider how they apply to my teaching/learning, my students/colleagues. ¬†You’ve made me think about where PLEs fit for primary/elementary education and I’m coming around to the idea that to organically grow an effective PLE we need to plant the seed in students as soon as they enter formal education.

Am I being unrealistic? I’ve always ¬†had a Utopian streak running through me.


Twitter at Southwell

Here are links to some of the resources used during the Twitter presentation at Southwell School on May 20th.

and a good blog-post from @timbuckteeth Why Twitter is so Powerful.

If you need to know more or have any other questions about Twitter you can leave them in the comments… or you could sign up for Twitter and send me a message @teachernz.

Paperless Day

I signed up for paperless day (April 22), but sadly wasn’t in class. ¬†I kept my side of the bargain and my co-teacher ran a paperless programme for the day (and I most of the next day).

Students are busy working on movies, slideshows and blog entries about their day ( they’ll appear on the class blog), but here’s a taster of what Room 13 did. ¬†Made entirely in Google’s¬†Picasa with a soundtrack created in Aviary’s Myna audio editor.


This One’s For You

Last night I saw this trailer on BBC World…

…and then my daughter told me that the Internet had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last week. ¬†I was away at school camp at the time and out of “the loop” so this was all news to me.

I started reading around a discovered a few articles in support of the nominations, but many seemed to think it was a ridiculous idea.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the person who has ‚Äúdone the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.‚ÄĚ Is it so ridiculous that the Internet¬†receive¬†this nomination?

There’s a MńĀori saying in New Zealand/Aotearoa –

‘He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata’
‘What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people, it is people , it is people.’

Isn’t that what the Internet is really about? ¬†Isn’t that why we spend time blogging, tweeting or facebooking? ¬†It’s the people. ¬†It’s the people. It’s the people. It’s the global connections and dialogues sans Fronti√®res that are just as real and valid as face to face connections that make the Internet such a powerful tool for peace.

So who is the nomination really for? ¬†It’s for you… ¬†and me… ¬†and everybody else out there trying to make a difference. ¬†Celebrate… it’s not often we get nominated!


Just a Test

Following a tweet from @abfromz


I thought I remembered something about how to, so I checked the Animoto site and sure enough there were some details about exporting to YouTube and then embedding the resulting video.


So that’s what @abfromz did… you can see her embedded video here. ¬†It worked.

I decided that there must be an easier way and, after a few minutes searching found this “Embedding Animoto in WordPress!” – I followed the link to VodPod and dragged the bookmarklet to my Firefox bookmarks bar (also works with Google Chrome, but not IE8).

I went to my Animoto page, clicked the bookmarklet and…

vodpodchromeI was thinking of posting to my blog, but I’m using that for my 365 photos. ¬†I knew that Edublogs was based on WordPress, so I filled in my details, added a bit of text and the video was embedded. ¬†It took a few minutes for it to show up, but it worked. ¬†You can see the embedded Animoto below…

…and that’s when I decided to make the test post into something more substantial.

more about “Just a Test“, posted with vodpod

Goodbye, Hello


2009 has been a strange year at school with lots of changes along the way.

The main difference has been my change in roles. No longer confined to my classroom five days a week, I roam across the school now. Four mornings every week are spent in other classrooms, working alongside teachers or working with specific groups of children. ¬† From shiny, new 5 years olds to crusty 11 year old veterans and their teachers – I’ve worked with them all.¬† I’ve really enjoyed it, though I still miss the time I had with Room 9, and I sometimes feel like I have no base to call home.¬† Our classroom blog has been sadly neglected because of my new responsibilities, it hasn’t quite fitted with what’s been happening in class and in the afternoons there is so much to do in so little time.¬† Next year we’ll make it work.

A few highlights stand out.¬† The trip to ULearn09 in Christchurch was a major event in our school calendar and we were lucky enough to take nearly our whole staff.¬† Twenty-two of us descended on Christchurch from the sky, hit the road running (we landed 45 minutes before the first Keynote) and spent three days soaking up the fresh ideas and collegiality.¬† I met up with some of the internet freaks that my mother would have warned me about, my twittering friends.¬† It as great to meet so many of them in person.¬† Tony Ryan says it much better than I can, but if you’re considering going to ULearn next year – just do it! We returned to school in Term 4 energised and enthusiastic.¬† If we weren’t quite reading from the same page we at least had the same book open.

Working with new-entrant children is an education in itself… a reminder of just how much they assimilate in those first few years of school.¬† They’re, for the most part, eager, fearless and engaged learners.¬† Nearly everything has a wow factor for them and they are a joy to work with, their energy seems to soak into you.¬† I watched as a boy (at school for two days) took up the IWB pen and started using the shape tool to draw circles.¬† Within a few minutes he’d covered the board with a rainbow assortment of circles of varying sizes.¬† I looked away for a minute ( I was helping one of the other 5 year olds record their story with an Easi-Speak ready for sharing).¬† When I looked back at the IWB he had sorted the circles into groups, by colour or by size.¬† There were three left that didn’t obviously fit his criteria… so he promptly changed their colours and sizes and sorted them too!

I’ve seen massive shifts in attitude and ability in staff and I credit our trip to ULearn with a lot of this.¬† In particular there was one teacher who openly admitted her technophobia (you know who you are).¬† For 45 minutes a day, four days a week, over 8 weeks we slowly chipped away at her fears, building skills in a “just in time” way that meant everything she learnt was immediately relevant, useful and used.¬† Success!

At the end of Term 4 I found an envelope in my cubby hole.¬† In it was a note from the Junior Syndicate, thanking me for my help… it was worded so positively that I had to sit down and blink to stop the happy tears (I’m a big softy).

To wrap up the year I’ve been given ICT responsibility for the whole school.¬† I still have a classroom role, I’ll continue to provide professional development for teachers and work alongside students too.¬† I also have to focus on integrating ICT and IWBs across the school and curriculum and developing a tiered support network for colleagues.¬† With this comes the onerous job of outlining a three year ICT strategy for the school… something I’ve rarely thought about, but I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the challenge.

Oh yeah, to top it all off I’m moving rooms; same age students, different location.¬† We’re moving to vertically organised groups of classes, Years 2, 3 and 4 supporting each other and learning together.¬† You wouldn’t believe the “resources” that a teacher can accumulate after nine years in the same room.¬† Or maybe you would!

So, goodbye Room 9, hello Room 13.

Goodbye 2009, hello 2010.  Bring it on!


Happy New Year to you all!

I See TED People

At TED|India the genius that is Pranav Mistry revisits his sixth sense device, shares other human interface devices he’s worked on in the past and shows us a possible future of ubiquitous information and gesture based digital interaction. ¬† He also reveals that the software behind sixth sense technology is to be released as open source.

If you’ve seen sixth sense before – there’s more here, as well as an unusual use for a regular sheet of paper. ¬†If you can’t wait, the real fun starts at about 8:00 minutes in.

Where does this guy get his ideas?


Gravatar & Avatars

I discovered Gravatar over a year ago and have used it to represent me visually on blog comments and to give my online identity some consistency in¬†other online spaces. ¬†A few weeks ago I changed my Twitter avatar and, after recently leaving a blog comment with an avatar that didn’t match, I decided it was time for a Gravatar update. ¬†If you’re not using ¬†Gravatar why not give it a try?

Looking over the history of my evolving Gravatar avatars-

Avatar History

I remembered that between




@rakt had asked…


and the simple answer is… I don’t use an avatar creator.¬† I make them from photographs in a variety of ways.

I usually start with a full face colour portrait.¬† Then I’ll change the colour/contrast/fill settings using Picasa.¬† After that I open the photo in an older version of¬†Paint Shop Pro, or GIMPshop, copy half of my face and play with the effects until I create something I like. ¬†Sometimes I’ll flip the tablet screen and use ArtRage to draw or trace over a photo. ¬†When I’m semi-satisfied I copy and mirror my half face, tidy things up and finish off in Picasa or whatever suits me. ¬†Mostly it’s just playing and experimenting until I’m happy with what I see.

Here’s a few samples to demonstrate a little of what I do.

Of course it doesn’t always work…

Second Life

I’m on a couple of¬† learning curves at the moment.¬† The gentler one of them is Google Wave (more of that in a later post).¬† The other, steeper curve, is Second Life.¬† Both of them have reminded me of what it’s like to be a new learner, unsure of the next step, wary of making¬† silly mistakes.
So how am I learning?¬† I’m learning with others, and in Second Life I’ve been lucky to connect with a community that really welcomes new learners.¬† The only stupid n0ob questions here are the ones that remain unasked.¬† So, thanks for the warm welcome Second Lifers and Jokaydians, it’s been an eye opening couple of months.
I’m relatively new to Second Life, only really getting involved during the¬†Jokaydia Unconference at the end of September. ¬†Since then I’ve taken a few opportunities to join the Jokaydian community to further my Second Life experience and step a few rungs up the newbie ladder.
A couple of weeks ago I followed a tweet from @jokay and joined a Jokaydian foray, via Second Life, into Story Quest.  We met on the beach, geared up with backpacks and wal(k)ing sticks and, after watching the introductory video, we were transported by Marty Snowpaw to our destination.
On arrival it was immediately obvious that this was a carefully crafted world.  The lighting, objects and ambient sounds all combined to create an immersive experience (even on my lowly laptop) that drew me in straight away.
The underlying narrative was intriguing. ¬†The story appeared to revolve around a recently deceased man and presented itself, to me, as an interactive biographical puzzle. ¬†Who was this man Uncle D? ¬†What had happened to him? ¬†Plot elements and Easter Eggs were tantalizingly revealed as I explored (under the able mentorship of Jennette Forager). ¬†I discovered references to “The Scarlet Letter” and I couldn’t help but read underneath it, seeing HIV/AIDS as the 21st Century badge of community shame. ¬†Was this Uncle D’s story? ¬†There were hints of sickness, of debilitating illness, of euthanasia. ¬†Where was the story headed?
I know I could have discovered more if I wasn’t still learning the tools and I have a feeling the whole experience had much, much more to offer; a biographical narrative unfolding in tiny slices, equal measures of entertainment, education, mystery, wonder and enlightenment. ¬†It was a powerful virtual experience, with a genuine emotive connection, made all the more real by the participants, writers and designers. ¬†It just may be that virtual worlds are evolving into the next iteration of the narrative genre. ¬†I wanted to dig deeper, but unkind timezones precluded further exploration and I was subsequently left with many questions unanswered. ¬†Were the characters real or fictional? ¬†Was this the story of an individual or a shaken cocktail of many?
As a novice in Second Life I’m still a bit of a lurker, listening rather than speaking, observing instead of participating, but if ever there was an experience to engage people in virtual worlds or virtual learning environments, this would surely draw them in. ¬†Thinking with my teacher head- how much more powerful is a story that can be co-experienced with peers at a personal pace, with discoverable details that promote thinking, dialogue and multilogue between students?
All I know is that I’m going back, to discover more, to find the next clue, to read the next chapter, to know what happened, to complete the quest.

Getting Over It

If you’ve read my earlier post Talking the Talk you’ll know how I feel about hearing my recorded voice.¬† Yesterday the chance arose to take another step up the ladder and produce a video.

@catspyjamasnz asked for people to contribute to her project What My PLN Means to Me and to add a video to the wiki.

So here’s my contribution.¬† Like I’ve said before, we have to put ourselves out there and get over our dislikes, fears and phobias.¬† How can we expect children to do this if we don’t?

Pencils and Crayons to be Banned in Schools

A new law coming into force later this month will require students to check in their pencils and crayons at the office and collect them after school.  Any children caught with pencils or crayons in their possession will have then confiscated and parents will be informed.

“We’ve had enough,” said one teacher, “kids are writing notes to each other in class. It’s distracting for us all.¬† Besides that, they spend too much time sharpening them when they could be working.”

There have been many reports of children using their pencils to “poke” each other and there have even been arguments about who owns which pencil.

“They’ll have someone’s eye out one day.¬† It’s only a matter of time before something serious happens,” commented a parent who favours the all out ban.¬† “Better to ban them all rather than risk an accident – they can be really sharp.”

In some cases pencils have been used by pupils to record their ideas and learning, but they’ve also created problems with their inappropriate use in class.¬† The introduction of new “coloured” pencils means that children are being tempted to create ever more creative work and the notes passed around now include garish illustrations.

One parent explained his opinion. “Chalk and slate was good enough for us, black and white and easy to read, not a confusing multicoloured mess.¬† You couldn’t pass notes around without the teacher noticing and the chalk couldn’t be sharpened into a dangerous point.¬† The greatest danger was that you’d drop it on your foot.¬† I’d like chalk to remain the teachers’ main tool (along with talk). Let’s keep it at the centre of learning.”

A few teachers are not convinced that the ban is the best policy.  They worry about the effect it might have on student engagement and motivation.

“As soon as they get out of school kids are writing, drawing and passing notes around.¬† I think by banning the pencil and crayon we risk alienating students and making their time at school seem irrelevant to their lives.”

“Used in the correct way they are powerful learning tools, students (and teachers) need to be trained in their proper classroom use.”

“It seems ridiculous to exclude something that is so readily available outside school and widely integrated into all aspects of our modern society.¬† They are exposed to these modern implements from an early age and most children use them on a daily basis.¬† To take them away is erasing educational opportunities.”

No one can argue with the fact that a sharpened pencil can cause injury and that something must be done.¬† It’s too soon to determine the outcome of the ban.¬† We’ll just have to wait and see.

P.S. There is a rumour that something called a “ballpoint pen” is beginning to gain popularity among teens.¬† How will schools cope with this new permanent menace?¬† At least pencils can be erased with the right equipment.


image by orangeacid at Flickr

Paying it Forward…

Last week my premium subscription to PBWorks (the new name for PBWiki) expired.¬† I’d won it in a PBWiki competition last year…I promoted PBWiki and completed wiki tasks that earned points and, eventually, a free wiki upgrade.

I viewed the email with a little dismay, even though our wiki has been underused so far this year and my new role out of the classroom means it’ll probably continue that way for a little while.

I responded to the notification, letting PBWorks know that US$99 was out of my reach and that I’d manage without the upgrade.¬† My response was interpreted as a PBWorks support request and I was automatically assigned a number/ticket and informed that I’d hear from them soon.¬† I sent a message back saying it was only a pecuniary problem¬† and that everything was OK.

Later that day there arrived another message from PBWorks – with a smiley =).

Free PBWorks

Free PBWorks

Kristine and the PBWorks team had given me two free upgrade vouchers.¬† Each lasts a year and can be applied to one or two wikis.¬† Effectively I’d just been given a free two year upgrade.

I’ve redeemed one of the vouchers, but I’d like to share my good fortune and pay it forward.¬† So, if you’d like me to apply the other one to your class PBWorks wiki, just leave your wiki’s address in the comments.¬† First in – first served.¬† Of course, if it’s you, please PayIt Forward in some way.

And again, thanks Kristine and PBWorks!


Minority Report 2

Be warned- this is  very video heavy post

A Saturday morning tweet by @betchaboy


prompted me to refresh my memory…

I’ve blogged about this Oblong interface before, but I’d forgotten how slick it really was (apart from the naff gloves).

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

Here it is being used to edit video/movie elements together.

oblong’s tamper system 1801011309 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

Breed it selectively with this…

a handful of these….

and don’t forget the “glass” wall at the beginning of the Microsoft Future Vision 2019 video. That’s not a glass wall, its a touch screen offering real time translation of voice and text.¬† The children could be separated by half a world.

Is the combined DNA of these products a likely future tool of interactive education? Or will schools, as we know them, have ceased to exist by then?


Empowering Lifeskills

some skills are just not covered by the curriculum...

I promised that I’d photoshop* this photo and add effects to the plastic lightsabres we were holding. ¬†It took me a couple of months to get around to it and about an hour to complete. ¬†Once I’d finished I pushed it out on to twitter as a bit of a joke.

I got a tweet back from @SharonHarper

and followed the link.  It led to a TED video of Gever Tulley (@gever).  You can watch it below.

I did all these things as a kid (and more-see number 2 of my 7 Things), though my copyright infringments were limited by the technology of the time; the cassette recorder and the transistor radio.

How many of you did the things that Gever Tulley talks about? ¬†What about your children? What about your class? ¬†I know I was shocked to find that my son had been using a power drill and handsaw to make a “video camera” while he was in kindergarten. ¬†Are we too protective of our children and students? ¬†If so… what changed and when?

Another Gever Tulley TED Talk including a rollercoaster created by 7 year olds.

*I don’t actually have photoshop, but “paint.netted” doesn’t roll of the tongue in quite the same way.

The Future is… Now?

I opened google reader to find a new post by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) entitled “This Generation Learning“, in which he discusses the barriers that prevent teachers adopting emerging technologies and teaching tools.

“…I think the most trenchant barrier to grand adoption of emerging technologies is time. Teachers quite simply don’t have enough time to do anything other than survive during the working academic year. And then the holidays are spent recovering from the relentless onslaught of planning, teaching and assessment cycles. When the governments of this world stop testing and measuring everything to destruction and start seeing learning as a means to an end rather than as an outcome, then we may see some changes.”

Go, read his post and watch the video… how many students in your school are using these technologies? ¬†How many of your colleagues even know these things are possible? ¬†What about your Board of Trustees?

Steve Wheeler will be in Auckland, NZ in September 2010, does anyone in Auckland want to organise an opportunity for him to speak with interested educators?

Google Wave – Surf City Here We Come

Imagine all (and I mean all) the web tools we now use in education.  Blogs, wiki, googledocs, photosharing, IM, twitter, etherpad, maps, games, polls, forums and video etc.

Now imagine them all integrated into one web application… cross platform and cross device. Where a tweet shows up instantaneously as a blog entry, a blog comment appears as a tweet, photos appear and disappear on different blogs as they are uploaded or deleted.  Collaborative work on documents, images and maps is live and instant. Intelligent spellchecking (using context, symantics and syntax) fixes most errors on the fly.

Google wave is all this and more.  Have a look at the developer preview video (1hr 20mins) and see if it moves you to tears like it did me.


… and, oh yeah, it’s opensource.


At an unconference in Auckland yesterday, Jill Hammonds showed me this little blogging client that she uses with her wordpress blog. I think I’ll try it in class instead of the SRWare option I have at the moment.


Update: Takes its¬†proxy settings from internet explorer, but has no way to work with proxy servers that require authentication like schoolzone. ¬†ūüôĀ

teachernz and face

posted using BlogDesk-button

Anarchist Lurkers?

A couple of weeks ago I was happily twittering away when @timbuckteeth (Steve Wheeler) dropped the link below into the tweetstream.

I have no idea why I clicked on the link. Maybe it was to test the livestreaming because I’d been experimenting with basic streaming from my phone. Maybe it was simple curiosity or perhaps it was an example of what Steve Wheeler called legitimate peripheral participation (lurking). Whatever the reason I spent the next 30 to 40 minutes watching a Skyped presentation in Bremen, Germany.

I was introduced to Edupunk, a term that’s probably familiar to many, but new to me. I watched with burgeoning interest as Mr Wheeler explained some of the ideas behind Edupunk, interacting with the class, answering questions and adding insights. You can view the Mogulus archive of it here (skip to 3:30) and read Mr Wheeler’s subsequent blogpost.

I think I’m beginning to understand Edupunk’s far reaching philosophy. It’s about teachers (and students) participating on their own terms. It’s cutting out the educational profiteers, directing financial resources elsewhere. Like using a Wii remote hack costing less than NZ$250 to create a multitouch digital whiteboard instead of paying NZ$3295 and lining the corporate coffers. It’s about finding ways to overcome barriers to learning by using, mashing and melding the available (usually free) tools. It’s dealing with lack of hardware by dragging things out of the bin and re-jigging them until they do what’s needed. Teachers have always done this in the classroom with the resources they’ve been supplied with, supplementing them with their own money, time and ingenuity. Edupunk brings this into the 21st century teaching and learning environment.

Steve Wheeler suggests taking it further-

“I would even go as far as to claim that Edupunk teachers should be challenging the curricula they are required to teach, and especially the assessment methods that are imposed from on high. These are the structures that constrain education and stop learners from achieving their full potential.”* Read more here.

Digressing slightly, Mr Wheeler’s response to a question, describing lurking as “legitimate peripheral participation” rang so true for me. For many it is a prerequisite to contributing. In my case lurking has led to commenting, connecting, collaborating and creating… participating and learning.

A year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing this, but now I feel part of a global community, connected enough to comment and feeling that I have found my voice.

So what do you think? Does Edupunk encompass any of your teaching/learning? Were you or are you a longtime lurker?

More Edupunk below- 3 videos to watch


This post originally posted at

A Glimpse into the Future?

A month ago I sent this tweet about a video at MIT.

The link goes to an article at that includes a video that is amazing. ¬†It looks a bit clunky at the moment, (I compared it to this polished MicroSoft promo) but imagine what it could be like! I’d intended to blog about it, but other things came up and it slipped my mind/fell to the bottom of my to do list.

Today I found a video on TED that explains more about “Sixth Sense”. ¬†Watch it below.

Remember that this is a prototype.  What if it was integrated onto our clothing or mobile devices?  The possibilities are almost endless.

Talking the Talk

So here’s my audio-post. ¬†I got over the fact that I don’t like to hear my recorded voice, wrote a script and read it out (most of it). ¬†There were a few mistakes and err…umms along the way, but I just did what I tell the kids to do, “Keep going, we can edit the mistakes out later.” ¬†I did just that!

Click to play*

This is my speaking voice; I mean this is the voice I use at school in class and with colleagues. I made a conscious effort to change and modify the way I spoke at teachers college 10 years ago. Out of school it’s a little more relaxed, but I maintain the same inflections, vocabulary and syntax. I still encounter occasional blank looks at particular phrases and sometimes I can see people ruminating, trying to decode exactly what I just said, because I used a familiar word in an unfamiliar context, but most of the time my altered English voice serves me well.

But I‚Äôm not English. I‚Äôm a Yorkshireman. I‚Äôm Yorkshire, a tyke. This is my real voice. It‚Äôs flatter and my Yorkshire accent is broader. I drop my aitches, miss out words like ‚Äėthe‚Äô and the letter T and replace them with a glottal stop. Most vowels become short vowels, others undergo a shift, taking on other vowel sounds. Some words with a double O sound in become U and others are extended into diphthongs. Ends of words are shortened or clipped and unfamiliar dialect words may be used instead of Standard English words. Right doesn‚Äôt sound like write, Mother or mum stays much the same, but father is different, dad is not. Boys and girls are lads and lasses who like to play football on the grass and if a lad scored a goal he‚Äôd be really proud of himself. They might have brought something for their lunch, but if they haven‚Äôt brought anything they‚Äôll have nothing to eat and will be hungry on the way home.

How many times have you heard an adult say, ‚ÄúI hate the sound of my own voice.‚ÄĚ Someone (@klandmiles in Singapore) tweeted on Twitter last week, ‚ÄúOf course you hate the sound of your own voice, it‚Äôs in the rules.‚ÄĚ

I wonder how children hear themselves. So do kids hate the sound of their own voice? Or do they listen and think, ‚ÄúHey! That‚Äôs me!‚ÄĚ

We expect children to want to record themselves on audio or video and many of them do, but a small percentage of them will feel as I still do…I hate the sound of my own voice. What can we do to nurture these students? How can we build their confidence and encourage them to participate and create in this way? Do they have to?

*audio recorded on a Nokia N95, three main takes and edited in Audacity

This post originally published at “At the Teacher’s Desk

Sounds Good!

Earlier this week I¬†left a comment (which I later turned into a blogpost) on this post by @wmchamberlain and was invited, via Twitter, to be a contributor at “At the Teacher’s Desk” ¬† As I’d already identified audio and video of myself as a personal dislike I decided that the first step in “walking the talk” would be to use an audio-post as my first contibution to the blog.

Our class blog is provided by and it’s been about three years since I’ve done any real work on a Blogger based blog. ¬†Before writing and recording my audio-post I needed to find out how to embed an mp3 audio player in Blogger. ¬†Blogger (Google) doesn’t make this easy, which is a strange omission in a blogging platform that is otherwise so media friendly. ¬†I thought I recalled doing it previously, but wasn’t sure.

In response to a question from @jlamshed I sent this tweet-

Which was met with a couple of responses.  One from @wmchamberlain suggesting I use Vocaroo (an online recording service) and another from @winetimejs saying I should find somewhere to host the audio file and link it in the blog.

Neither of these matched exactly what I wanted. ¬†They’d both work perfectly well, but I wanted to edit the audio in Audacity to remove any “umms” and hiccoughs I might make. ¬†I also wanted to embed a little player into the blog rather than have a link like this-¬†listen here. ¬†Don’t bother clicking – it’s not a real link!

After following several pomising leads from Google I eventually found this page.  It documents several ways of adding an audio player to Blogger. I used number 1 on the page to produce this player below.

You’ll need somewhere to host your audio file (I actually uploaded mine to WordPress). ¬†After that you need to follow the instuctions, copy and paste the player code and then paste in your mp3 file location. I’m not going to reproduce all the steps here in any detail because they’re all included here. ¬†Just make sure you paste the code into the html view in Blogger.

The page offers other options for embedding mp3 audio in blogger, none of which I’ve tried. ¬†I like the sound of number three, which adds code to the Blogger template so that a player appears automatically whenever you paste in an mp3 link.

One final note.  This only works with mp3 audio files.  If you have any problems you can leave questions and suggestions in the comments.  Happy recording and listening!

Prompted to Post by the PLN

This entry came about because of a blogpost at “At the Teacher’s Desk“.¬† I left a comment and then realised that the comment was really a reflective blogpost.

We’ve had a class blog since 2005 and I originally saw it as a way to share children’s work with their families. When I added a counter and then a Clustrmap it became an even greater motivator. With a few exceptions we haven’t moved into real collaboration yet, though I know we will.

My own blogs have been half-hearted personal stories, a few tech and “how to” posts and some attempts at humour. I have reflected very little and collaborated even less. How right you are. We must “walk the talk” for our students in self-reflection, collaboration, creation and co-creation.

I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice and appreciate my video-self even less, but I have to get past this. How can I realistically ask students to do what I do not? I’ve done the flying fox, abseil, kayak and BMX as modeling and encouragement. Now it’s time to strap on my helmet, get over my nervousness and do some audio and video.

Thanks for the collaborative kick up the proverbial to @wmchamberlain and @jlamshed.

Teacher Effect

I followed a link from twitter the other day to a post about teacher effectiveness.  It came to the conclusion that everything a teacher does has an effect on students and their learning.

Today a photo from a parent arrived in my email to confirm this.




I just had a most amazing collaborative experience. ¬†@Mrs_Banjer tweeted on Twitter that she was in an etherpad opened by¬†@mbarrow¬†and would anyone like to come and try it out. ¬†I’ve played with etherpad briefly, but not like we did tonight.

Each contributor is allocated a particular colour to help identify their additions and edits (there are eight colours). ¬†We realised that only eight people could work on a document together at any one time when someone had to leave and was denied re-entry. ¬†EtherPad isn’t perfect, but it is very impressive to watch up to eight live edits appearing on screen simultaneously.

After brief introductions and locations were informally exchanged we went to work, asking and answering questions, experimenting to test etherpad’s limitations and getting a feel for how it worked. ¬†We shared links about software, tips about Twitter, but eventually settled to thinking about how students could use it. ¬†About an hour after we first logged on (it didn’t seem like that long) we had co-created a list of ways that etherpad could be used in the classroom by students and teachers. Thanks to¬†@mbarrow¬†¬†for starting the etherpad and to¬†@mrs_banjer¬†¬†@scratchie¬†@mwclarkson¬†@juecov and others who popped in and out to contribute during the session. ¬†Here’s the list we came up with.

Etherpad in the Classroom

This was a real collaborative effort and great fun too! Give it a go with some friends at

Classroom Layout

Room 9

I spent a good deal of time this year moving cupboards, shuffling desks and recabling computers in their new positions.  What a difference it makes having the computers away from the door.

Then this morning I noticed a tweet on Twitter from @techieicebreaker to @dwarlick.  It was a link to a wiki called Inspired Classrooms.  The wiki contains links to five short videos (7 Р19 mins) describing effective ways to set up your classroom, paying particular attention to the positioning of computers.  The videos were made in 2006, before netbooks were widely available, but the same layout could be used with netbooks or laptops.  For the cost of a desktop you could probably add 2 netbooks, possibly adapting the layout to suit.

A final note… if this¬†cheap Indian “device” turns out to be a reality everything will change.

Sweet Tweets


I got a new follower on Twitter today and, as usual, checked out their profile to see if I wanted to follow them back.  That led me to a blog post about Twitter and how effective it has been as a PLN and PD tool for @kgustin.

I’ve been meaning to write about Twitter for a while now, but there doesn’t seem to be anything left for me to say that hasn’t already been said by other Tweeters. ¬†Twitter has brought me out of my hole and into the light, connecting me with a network of like minded educators and people that I would otherwise never have “met”. ¬†Thank you Twitter and thank you my Tweeting Twitter friends.

If you haven’t checked out Twitter for yourself yet, I recommend you do. ¬†Give it a little time and you won’t regret it.

Here are a few blog posts that describe the Twitter experience and the benefits of being “connected” much better than I could.
Common Sense Classroom

Durff’s Blog

Steedy’s Blog

Sharing the Addiction

Counting Heritage

My Great-Grandad John (Jack) Porter & Me
My Great-Grandad John (Jack) Porter and Me

I mentioned to some one the other day that I don’t use my own voice for talking.¬† I still have an accent and it’ll never go away, but the edges are softened, my glottal stops have all but disappeared and I dont say “tha noz” at all anymore.¬† It made me think about those that came before me, my grand-parent and their ancestors, where they came from and how they would have spoken.¬† I know my mum and dad had some novels written entirely in Tyke dialect, but dad gave them away (to a girl from New Zealand they met in Australia).¬† After a brief foray into dialect sites, Tyke poetry and Ilkla Moor Baht ‘At, I found this gem on Wikipedia.¬† Yan, tan, tethera is something my great grandad used to say when he was counting.¬† It’s a fives based counting system and (from what I can remember) my great-grandad’s version went something like this.

Yan, tan, tethera, methera, pip.¬† Sethera, leathera, overa, dovera, dick.¬† Yanadick, tanadick, tetheradick, metheradick, bumfit.¬† Yanabum, tanabum, tetherabum, metherabum, jiggit.¬† It doesn’t quite match up with any of the charts on Wikipedia.

What a fascinating way of counting, though who knows what comes after jigget?¬† I’m pretty sure this has all but died out, so I’m going to teach it to my daughters and son to try and keep it alive.¬† I’ll also share it with my class at school, although if they can get past ten and fifteen without giggling I’ll be very surprised!

Seven Things

I was tagged a couple of days ago by @moodlegirl on Twitter to complete the “Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me” meme. The list just kind of evolved.¬† I kept adding ideas to geistesblitz and then got to work.¬† There were other things that I deleted and yet more that could have been included.¬† I’ve seen most of my twitter friends complete this over the last few weeks so I’m not tagging anyone else.¬† Here goes.

1.  I wanted to be a spaceman
When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut.¬† I followed the Apollo missions obsessively, collecting anything I could from magazines, newspapers and the free gifts in cereal or tea packets.¬† If only I had them now!¬† I remember my dad calling me downstairs to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon’s surface on a blurry black and white TV.¬† This stellar ambition was later replaced with a desire to be a marine biologist/illustrator.¬† I took up scuba diving and completed the training, but it sort of petered out when I discovered girls, pubs and beer. I was fifteen.

2.  I was shot in the head when I was ten
I had a best friend at school called John.¬† We used to “borrow” his older bother’s air rifle and go shooting rats by the river or canal.¬† One day John’s brother got a new toy- a wooden bow and metal tipped arrows, so we spent the afternoon “target” shooting.¬† This mainly involved taking turns to stand, legs akimbo, while the other shot an arrow through the leggy arch and made it stick into the ground.¬† We both got pretty good at it and neither of us flinched as the whirling, spinning shafts whizzed near or between our legs. Our nerves of steel had been tempered by years of playing “chicken” another leg spreading game played face to face and involving big, sharp knives.¬† Eventually we got bored and John thought of a question that we just had to find the answer to.¬† “I wonder which will go furthest?¬† The bow and arrow or the airgun?”

I can’t remember how, but I ended up with the bow and John with the gun.¬† He primed and loaded it as I pulled back the string and let fly.¬† The arrow soared through the air, over his garden fence, over the allotment of cabbages and cauliflowers, over the hedge and half way across the school rugby field.¬† We were very impressed.¬† Following John’s instruction I walked to where the arrow had landed and turned to…

BANG! Not the noise of the gun, but the noise of the pellet hitting my forehead, about 3cm above my right eye.¬† To this day I don’t know what he was aiming at.¬† Nor do I know how we were to find and measure where the pellet had landed if my head hadn’t stopped it.¬† I do know that the next few minutes were very, very bloody and I was cleaned up and calmed down by John’s mum.¬† She bribed me with a “99” not to tell my mum what had happened.¬† I was cheap even back then and I told my mum I’d banged my head on a nail.¬† I kept the truth a secret until my mid-thirties when John was safely living in Spain.¬† I still got the standard motherly refrain.¬† “Did what! He could have taken your eye out!”¬† Let it go mum, let it go.

3.¬† I went to a single sex “public” school
At thirteen my parents decided I should attend an all boys public school and get a “better” education.¬† The school was given its charter by Queen Elizabeth I, was nearly 500 years old and had a long tradition of academic excellence- if you could pay the fees.¬† Luckily for me there was a Socialist Labour government in power at the time and they decreed that these schools could only continue to exist if they guaranteed free places to the more able children in the state sector.¬† I’d been assessed as one of these students.

Greatly upset at the thought of losing all my school friends I determined not to go.¬† I came up with a plan so cunning that it was sure to put a stop to it. I would commit a crime to ensure that I was awarded a criminal record. Surely no posh school would want a notorious criminal in their snobby midst?¬† My cleverly devised plan went awry when I discovered that my crime was not as heinous as I thought.¬† Reaching in through an open classroom window at the weekend and taking your own clay thumb-pot wasn’t up there with armed robbery or terrorism. Someone grassed me up and in the end I only got a stern telling off from the Chief Constable.¬† I was to have another, potentially more serious, encounter with the long arm of the law while at university.

4.  I studied art for six years
I went art school for 3 years and then spent the next 3 years at university getting a fine arts degree (the same degree that enabled me to undertake the postgraduate teacher training course at Waikato).¬† I studied art history, video production, photography and film.¬† My majors were in painting and printmaking (etching).¬† By The time I’d finished I’d had enough of the art world’s b.s. and haven’t put pencil to paper or paint to canvas seriously for more than 20 years.

5. I was arrested for attempting to break into a nunnery
It’s not as bad as at sounds.¬† Really.¬† During a heavy day/night out with a friend (Colin, if you’re out there, I’m looking at you) we spent all our food money for the week on beer.¬† After a particularly scary encounter with a sawn-off shotgun in a local pub, we decided to call it a night and stagger home.¬† We got lost on the way and, spying a tall, forbidding wall, we decided to climb it to get our bearings.¬† Colin climbed on my shoulders and managed to scramble to the top, only to cry “Can’t see anything from up here”.

It was then the security van drove past.¬† They must have notified the police because minutes later we were arrested by one of Northumberland’s finest.¬† “You were seen climbing over the nunnery wall lad,” and we were bundled into the back of his police car.¬† After a night in the cells, several cups of sugary tea and a few visits to a “stainless” steel toilet that was infinitely scarier than the shotgun, we eventually convinced the cops that we were just drunken, stupid art students and not nefarious nun botherers.¬† We dined and drank out on the story for weeks.

6.  I was a skinhead (boots, braces and all)
I entered art school with long, hippy hair and left as a skinhead.¬† I was very politically active and, unlike most racist, fascist skinheads, I joined the Anti Nazi League, The Socialist Workers Party and supported the Rock Against Racism movement that evolved as a response to Eric Clapton’s anti-immigration views and David Bowie’s professed admiration for Adolf Hitler.¬† A small group of “Red Skins”, we were sure that we had the proletarian answer to Thatcher’s downtrodden Britain of the nineteen-eighties.¬† We didn’t.

7. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 41 years old
I’d never needed to.¬† There were buses at the end of every street, running every fifteen minutes, 5am to 11pm, seven days a week.¬† Five minutes walk away was a railway station that gave access to anywhere in the country (and later Europe).¬† When I first started teaching I got a taxi to school and home again every day.¬† It was costing me over $300 a month – even with bumming a ride with any colleague going my way.¬† Reluctantly I decided the time had come and spent most of the summer holidays reading the road code and taking driving lessons.¬† I passed my test the day after the beginning of Term 1, 2001.¬† The thing is, I’ve come to really like driving (by myself).¬† I like being cocooned in a little world of my own where I’m in control and all the decisions are mine.¬† Plus I like to play my music LOUD!¬† I still only have a restricted license.

Opera Mini +

I’ve been on holiday for a week – so that was no internet for me unless I paid $$$ for a 15 minute session.¬† Or was it?

opera mini

It wasn’t at all.¬† I have Opera Mini on my phone and most of the web, e-mails, social networking and news that I access on my laptop were there on my phone.¬† Yippee!¬† So I could check my gmail/hotmail, read my rss feeds, browse my favourite sites, tweet on twitter and check in with Facebook.¬† Great!

I’ve noticed more and more that people are using their phones and mobile devices for some of their internet browsing.¬† Companies like Vodafone or Telecom want you to use their portal to do this.¬† It’s easy to see why.¬† To get anywhere you have to pass their “homepage” complete with ads and downloads, which must be a real revenue earner for them.¬† Coupled with the fact that you pay them for any data you use (basically if you’re connected to the internet via your phone you’re paying for data) they have little interest in optimising your phone web browsing for minimum data use.¬† You don’t have to use their browser.¬† Don’t click that Vodafone Live! button or little blue globe.¬† Download and install Opera Mini on your phone instead!

opera mini dowload page

First choose your download method. ¬†The recommended way is to got to using your phone’s built in browser. ¬†Opera will detect your phone’s make and model and ensure you download the correct version. ¬†When it’s on your phone just install it. ¬†Different phones and operating system will vary in how you do this, you may get a series of permissions dialogues, but just go with the flow and follow it through.

Once installed Opera Mini will be sitting in your applications folder or similar location. Click/open it and you’re off. ¬†It’ll ask you to mash the phone keys a few time and accept a user agreement before it opens the startpage. ¬†The startpage is preloaded with bookmarks, you’ll soon replace these with your own. ¬†Here’s my startpage.

The default setting has most webpages opening as minimized images of the full page with an area that¬†zooms in to view your selection. I apologise now for the news story, but that’s life.

If this works for you then you don’t need to make any changes. ¬†Personally I find the tiny page version too difficult to see. ¬†I changed my default view to mobile view like the image below.

It’s easy to do. ¬†Just follow these screenshots below, tick mobile view and press the left softkey to save.

That’s it. ¬†You’re all set to go. Like anything else you’ll learn by doing, so get to it. ¬†Visit your favourite sites, login to your webmail, check your rss feeds. Post any questions you have in the comments and I’ll help if I can or there’s the opera mini faqs page.

To tweet from your phone I recommend Just enter it into the address bar at the top of Opera Mini or google it. ¬†Log in with your twitter details and then save the page as a bookmark when you’re logged in. ¬†It’s pretty easy to use, though the icons can be difficult to see.

Have¬†a¬†play.¬†Have¬†fun¬†and¬†remember¬†it’s¬†cheaper¬†than texting¬†to¬†twitter!¬†$$$!

Using Windows Live Writer for Blogging


Whichever blogging platform you decide to use, Windows Live Writer can be used to publish to it.

Installing is easy enough, just go to Windows Live and download the latest version.  Make sure you only select Live Writer for download, unless you want the other Live programs offered.  When installing uncheck the boxes that ask if you want to install the Microsoft toolbar or reset your homepage (of course this is up to you).

Once installed Live Writer offers a familiar interface for users, this was important in my selection of it as the blogging tool for children in class. Menus and icons are mostly self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure- hover over the item and a tooltip will identify it for you.  A sidebar contains other functions you will need, like insert, plugins, draft posts and settings.

To set up your blog go to Tools>>Accounts‚Ķ .>>Add‚Ķ>>Other Blog Service‚Ķand enter your blog details, user name and password. Pick “remember my password” so you don’t have to enter it every time.
Live Writer add blog

To use Live Writer at school you will need to add the proxy details here. Once you’ve done all this you’re ready to post!

New >> New Post >> . . . add a title and away you go



I’ve just started playing with Tarpipe. ¬†It lets you upload items to several targets/sites in one go. ¬†In about ten minutes I managed to configure it so that I could send a photo to Flickr, tweet a corresponding url to Twitter, a entry to Plurk¬†and send the same photo to Evernote Web. ¬†You can see what it looks like below – sort of like Yahoo Pipes. I’m a PC so i have to upload via email, but for macs there’s Dropipe¬†a desktop widget that files can just be dropped into. ¬†Worth a look.

Tarpipe Workflow

To Blog…

The next thing to consider is how to use these tools yourself and then introduce them to the class.

I started of by publishing all children’s work myself.  Usually I would say, "When you’ve finished that piece of writing I’ll publish it on the blog".

For an item brought to share with the class I’d photograph it with my phone, bluetooth the photo to my laptop and upload it to the blog (about 2 minutes work).  I’d add "story coming…" under the photo and ask children to download/print out a blog template and write their story/information into it for adding to the photo.  Then I’d type it up.  Occasionally I’d log in to wordpress and guide children through blogging(publishing) their own writing. Finally I settled on using Windows Live Writer.

Windows Live Writer

Coming soon-setting up & using Live Writer.

What Do I Use to Blog?

There are many free and paid tools available to publish and share children’s work on the internet. They can be used to engage and motivate children and can provide an authentic audience for their work.

Blogging (from web log) is simply publishing writing on a personal website, like an online diary. I started off in 2004 using blogger but later changed to wordpress.

Blogger, now owned by google, is an easy way to set up a first blog. It is highly customizable and allows you to easily upload photos, movies and other multimedia elements. it has a selection of themes to choose from to alter the page design. It does have an annoying navigation bar at the top of the page and a “next blog” link that can take the reader to some places that are less suitable for children. With a bit of tweaking and coding this can be removed.

WordPress became my blog engine of choice because there was no “next blog” link. It has many page templates to choose from, but is a bit more choosy in what it allows its users to upload. Images are fine and if you have somewhere to host your files you can also add a free audio player. Videos can only be uploaded after upgrading your account with an annual payment of US$20.

Both sites are very easy to join, needing only a valid email address (though I think Blogger may ask you to set up a google account). Click on the email you receive as confirmation and that’s it – you’re ready to go.

Sometimes the login pages of WordPress and Blogger can present children with accidental access to unsuitable material. To eliminate this I use Windows Live Writer, a free Mocrosoft download. There are other options – you can blog from Word with this blogger plugin or you can use Word 2007 which has a built in publish to blog option.

Our class WordPress blog
Our new, experimental voicethread Blogger blog.



A Hoverfly*

So, enough hovering.¬† Here’s where I’ll set up a portal for other teachers at school.

I’ll post links to software, sites and other items of interest and reflect on some of the things that have worked well for me in class and others that haven’t been so successful.

There are heaps of teacher/class blogs and wiki out there that I’ll add as links, but I’d like to think that colleagues at school will be more likely to try new things ICT if they know that this is my space and that they can discuss things with me if they want to.

I could introduce them to Twitter instead. I’ve been making class web sites and blogs since 2001, but always in isolation, an island entire.¬† Now, via Twitter, I’m learning from others again!¬† For years I’ve been the guru that people have come to for ICT help, but today I’m getting help myself from ethereal colleagues.¬† It feels good.

*Hoverfly “painted” in Artrage 2.5 – some post work (copy and flip the wing) in

Next Year

I need to think about how I’m going to set things up for next year…

  • Adding Live Writer to all the class computers for children to post to glenview9
  • Rearranging the physical layout of the classroom
  • Introducing PBWiki in term one or even during meet the teacher at the end of term four
  • Publicizing the blog and wiki to parents (and the school community) and encouraging comments and participation
  • Integrating it all into the classroom and replacing some of the bookwork children do
  • and…???

Where to start? I’ve hovered around the fringes of Web 2.0 for the past few years dipping my toes in the water here and there – time to jump in.


I’ve been back from Christchurch for two days now and the ideas are still buzzing so much that I can hardly get my head around the next few weeks.

We have to give a presentation to the Principal and Board of Trustees sometime in the next few weeks to show what we learned and to make suggestions for the future direction of ICT and learning at school. I have had the idea of trying to make sure that some of the Room 9 students are on the wiki during the presentation or perhaps inviting some of the twitter crowd to hang out that evening.

I’ll spend the next few weeks collating my notes and gathering my thoughts and themes.